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Urbanears Zinken review: Urbanears Zinken

Bass on the stylish Urbanear Zinken headphones is strong but overall sound quality fails to impress and the high price isn't justified.

Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon
Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

4 min read

With so many headphones around from a seemingly infinite array of companies, it's often very difficult to find the right pair for you.

orig-urbanears-zinken-main-1.jpg
6.5

Urbanears Zinken

The Good

Stylish design; handy DJ features; Strong bass.

The Bad

Unimpressive overall sound quality; build quality issues.

The Bottom Line

The Urbanear Zinkens offer strong bass, a stylish design and some handy DJ-friendly features, but they fail to impress with the overall sound quality so it's hard to justify the £120 asking price.

If you're a budding bedroom DJ then you'll no doubt need a pair with plenty of bass but enough style to catch the eye of that sweet young thing who's been hanging round. The Zinkens by Urbanears fit the bill but does sound quality similarly woo the ears? And are they worth the £120 price tag?

The Zinkens are available now from the Urbanears website.

Design and build quality

Rather than opt for crazy patterns and fancy textures, the Zinkens are a far more subdued animal. A soft-feel matte plastic covers every surface, which some may find rather dull, but it's evidently designed as a fashion-conscious item, so I'm sure there will be plenty of you who love the look.

My model was an all-black affair, which didn't make them look any more fascinating but they are available in a rainbow of garish hues including 'pumpkin', 'grape', 'tomato' and seven others. If you need to make sure your musical accessories complement your wardrobe then the wide choice of colours will help you avoid a colour-clashing style faux pas among your hipster friends.

The earcups are pretty big and were able to sit around my ears, although they're not proper over-ear cans, so they aren't too chunky to wear on the bus. The cups join to the headband via sturdy metal bars that fold in for cramming into a small bag. They also swivel to the side for only using one ear, which DJs love to do for some reason. The headband itself is a decent size and feels secure without being overly tight. A soft padding on the inside helps them sit comfortably against your dome.

Urbanear Zinkens cups folded inwards
The cups bend inwards if you have floppy bunny ears, or more likely, if you want to pack them neatly in a bag.

Build quality seems fair overall, with the stiff plastic and metal hinges resisting my attempts to hurt them. I'm confident you could haul them around in a bag all day and they wouldn't suffer for it. Sadly though, little protective caps on the sides of the hinges fell off and got lost, revealing the screw and the cabling beneath.

Although it might not result in serious damage, it quickly turns the look of your £120 headphones from clean, simple and stylish into slightly battered and cheap. It's the sort of oversight that should have been eradicated in the quality control process, long before they were put on sale.

Cable

The cable is a crucial part of the Zinkens as it allows you to do a couple of neat tricks. For one, it's removable, meaning you can replace it if you accidentally slice through it while chopping carrots. It's also got a coiled section that gives you some leeway to move away from your audio source, without sending it crashing to the ground. It means you don't have 5ft of cabling dangling from your pocket if it's connected to your phone.

On one end is a standard 3.5mm jack to plug into your iPod or phone and on the other is a 6.3mm jack that plugs into your headphones. Handily, there's also a 3.5mm jack on your headphones so you can turn the cable over and plug your 'phones into your turntables -- or, more realistically, into a hi-fi or amp -- without needing to carry an adaptor. When the 3.5mm socket isn't in use on your headphones, your mate can plug his pair straight into them so you can both listen to the same thing.

Sound quality

Urbanears reckons these headphones are specifically designed with the amateur DJ in mind so I was expecting bass by the truckload from them, and that's exactly what I got.

Urbanear Zinkens side
If you want bass, the Zinkens will drill it into the sides of your face.

The overall tone is warm and full of low end, which will suit those of you who mostly listen to electronic music. Prodigy's track Thunderwas handled well, with the sub-level kick drum in the opening section rumbling powerfully and clearly. Similarly, the bass lines and dirty synth samples were warm and managed to avoid being muddied by the powerful beats.

The brutal kick drum and chugging guitar riffs in Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows' track The Only Thing You Talk About were pleasingly powerful, but sadly, the Zinkens are considerably lacking in the high end, resulting in a flat, almost muffled tone. The powerful guitar chords, while meaty, lacked the definition I'd expect to hear and the shine from the cymbals was almost non-existent.

Coldplay's track Viva La Vida was warm and the bass notes powered through, but again, I was left underwhelmed by the overall definition, particularly on the vocals and the string section in the background. You can still hear these parts being played, of course -- they just aren't reproduced with anything like the sort of clarity I'd hope for.

The Zinkens are particularly focused around the low and mid range which, given the DJ audience they're targeted at, is to be expected. If you only plan on using your headphones for mixing bass-heavy beats, they'll do the trick. But if you also hope to enjoy classical, acoustic or folk music that relies more on the mid to high ranges, then you should look elsewhere.

Conclusion

The Urbanears Zinkens offer comfort and handy features, with a street styling to boot. Amateur DJs -- or at least those of you whose music tastes lie firmly in the electronic genres -- will appreciate the big bass. The audio purists won't get on with the lack of clarity in the high end though.

The Zinkens are far from being dirt cheap, but if you're shopping for bass and style, they're worth an ears-on in your nearest shop.

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